Elfin Lakes Adventure
by Lani Gelera
Our excellent Elfin Lakes adventure into the majestic Pacific Northwest mountains began one early morning, mid-February. With two of my girlfriends, we set out for an overnight expedition to be back early the next day before I had to work in the city at 2 pm. It was a bit of a time crunch, but we figured we could pull it off since I had to reserve the bunks in the alpine shelter four months ahead of time. Also, we had been eagerly anticipating the fresh air, snow and scenery for quite a while.
Both my girlfriends were ski touring while I decided to snowshoe alongside them. Big mistake on my part, and I have since then rectified my wrong by acquiring my first split board. Right out of the parking lot, I was playing catch up the whole time since the pace and effort varied with snowshoes and skins. I was also carrying extra weight with my snowboard on top of my 40lb backpack. Call me a rookie, but I prioritize at least 3L of wine on an overnight backcountry cabin adventure with my girlfriends.
The trek was a crisp air breathtaking, spectacular 5K slog on a trail up to almost 1400 ft to our first rest stop at Red Heather Shelter Hut. There we grabbed a snack, warmed up and chatted over the fire stove with other winter wonderland explorers coming down and heading into the mountains we love.
The weather was sunny with breaks up to Red Heather, but shortly after heading back on the trail we walked into a wall of fog before we hit Pauls Ridge. Since it was our first time, we were inclined to ask for directions, and again, this was another big mistake. Instead of continuing along the proper trail over the traverse, we ended up taking the suggested summer biking trail. It would have been a shortcut along the left side of the ridge if we were all skinning. Snowshoeing along a steep avalanche hazard exposed ridge with a heavy pack is not comfortable, not ideal and not recommended. I spent a great deal of energy and exertion to not slide down the mountainside. All while attempting to find traction in my cheap Costco snowshoes and keep up with my gung ho girlfriends in their skinning tracks.
Finally, over the Paul Ridge traverse and heading toward the lakes in a cloud, it was getting dark, and we were getting cold. The question of "Are we there yet?" seemed to echo in the wind, while the snow blew around us, we focused on putting one foot in front of the other.
Elfin Lakes Cabin.
When at last, after 5 hours, we arrived at the Elfin Lakes shelter. The fire was on, and the hut was almost full with other small groups of travellers from the Sea to Sky and around the world. We quickly claimed our bunks for the night, got busy warming up and preparing some gourmet dehydrated dinner. As a reward for our day's efforts, we poured some well-deserved wine over some cozy cabin conversations and handstand shenanigans.
We came down early the next morning hoping to be back in the parking lot within 3 hrs before noon. It's a good thing I carried my snowboard on my back for 16km because the last 6k down was boardercross heaven and rewarded all my rookie efforts the day before. If I ever snowshoe into the beautiful backcountry again, it will not be up a mountain I can then snowboard down. Split board is the way to go. Living, learning and sharing my adventure with you!